World Briefs: Pressure to find missing man

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration faced intensified pressure Friday to find former CIA contractor Robert Levinson -- both from lawmakers and the Levinson family -- nearly seven years after he disappeared in Iran during what now has been revealed as an unofficial spy mission.

Mr. Levinson's family urged the government "to step up and take care of one of its own." Members of Congress said they wanted to know more about the case, which led to three veteran analysts being forced out of the agency and seven others being disciplined.

Mr. Levinson vanished after a March 2007 meeting with an admitted killer on Kish Island, an Iranian resort.

Central African toll 600

GENEVA -- More than 600 people have been killed in the past week in the sectarian violence and lawlessness convulsing Central African Republic, and the crisis is getting worse, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The assessment came as French troops exchanged gunfire with suspected former rebels groups in Bangui, and the African Union announced that it would raise the number of its peacekeeping troops to 6,000 from 2,500.

Ukranian sides parley

KIEV, Ukraine -- In the his first meeting with opposition leaders since the outbreak of a sustained civil uprising here, President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine on Friday urged the tens of thousands of protesters calling for changes at the highest levels of government to stop protesting.

The round-table talks occurred as Mr. Yanukovych is under intensifying pressure to resolve the crisis. It is coming not only from officials in the West and in Russia but also from some of Ukraine's wealthiest and most influential businessmen -- the oligarchs.

25 flee Baghdad jail

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Twenty-five suspects held on terrorism charges, some facing the death penalty, escaped early Friday from a prison north of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein had been hanged, killing two guards and raising the question of whether they had received inside help, security officials said.

The escape came a few weeks short of the seventh anniversary of Hussein's execution on the gallows of the prison, a former headquarters of his Istikhbarat military intelligence agency, which has since been renamed Al Adala, meaning justice.

Storm batters Middle East

CAIRO -- Snow coated domes and minarets Friday as a record Mideast storm compounded the suffering of Syrian refugees, sent the Israeli army scrambling to dig out stranded motorists and gave Egyptians a rare glimpse of snow in their capital.

Nearly three feet of snow closed roads in and out of Jerusalem, which is set in high hills, and thousands in and around the city were left without power.

In Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, many refugees were digging out snow from their provisional shelters amid subfreezing conditions.

Also in the world...

Chinese prosecutors have filed charges in court against leading activist Xu Zhiyong, a legal scholar, who founded the New Citizens Movement, a loose network of activists seeking to promote the rule of law and human rights ... Banks in the European Union will be able to ask national regulators to exempt staff earning as much as $1.4 million from rules that cap bonuses at twice their salary, the European Banking Authority said Friday.


-- Compiled from news services


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